Do you have a living will? A living will is a document which details your wishes regarding your medical treatment in situations where you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, such as in the event of a coma or severe illness or injury.
In a living will, you should specify what types of treatments you agree to that can prolong your life. These treatments may include transfusions, CPR, dialysis, drug administration, use of a respirator, and/or surgery – both minor and complex. This includes the “DNR” or “Do Not Resuscitate” order which will specify whether or not you wish medical personnel to attempt to revive you in case of cardiac arrest.
You should also specify whether you would like hospital staff to administer food and water intravenously at end of life when you are nearing death from serious illness or coma. In many cases, unconscious patients can linger for years – sometimes decades – this way. If food and water are not administered, then the patient would die in a few days due to dehydration. In a living will, you can make your personal preferences for care very clear in the event that you find yourself unable to do so at the hospital.
Palliative care is a term for the care one receives when they no longer wish to try and prolong their lives through medical intervention, but would like to die naturally. This type of care emphasizes a patient’s need to end their lives comfortable and pain-free. This type of care can be administered from home, at the hospital, or in hospice. For those wishing to end their lives comfortably at home instead of extending life days or months in a hospital setting, this may be a good option. Ensure that you learn more about palliative care, and make your preferences known in your living will.
A living will is just one of many important documents you should have prepared in your adult life. Assigning general power of attorney over your medical and/or financial resources, as well as ensuring that you have an up-to-date will in the event of your death, will ensure that your wishes are carried out on your behalf.